garden fertilizer on gardeners hand

3 Reasons to Limit Your Use of Weed and Feed

By: Sandy John

The House Method team researches, reviews, and recommends a number of services, including lawn care providers. Affiliate disclosure.

Weed and feed is the lawn care equivalent of the shampoo-and-conditioner-in-one products you find on the hair care aisle. They promise to save you time while giving you the same results you’d get by applying two different products. You’ve probably noticed that two-in-one hair care products haven’t led to the extinction of individual shampoos and conditioners, however. For much the same reason, there are many people who believe it’s better to weed and feed your lawn as a two-step process.

We’ve done the research on weed and feed, so you can learn why it might not be the best option. We’ve also got tips on how to use it on your lawn if you think it’s right for you.

If you’d like a healthy green lawn but don’t like the idea of applying fertilizers and weed killers yourself, House Method’s recommended lawn care service provider is TruGreen. TruGreen has offices throughout the US and Canada, so it’s likely there’s a TruGreen branch near you. For a free price quote on lawn service that meets your yard’s needs, call 888.535.3193 or fill out the online form.

What is weed and feed?

Weed and feed is the term used for lawn care products that contain both herbicides (weed killers, the “weed” part of the name) and fertilizer (the “feed” part). Weed and feed is designed to fertilize your lawn while also killing weeds, like dandelions and clovers, in your grass.

Many people like the idea of using weed and feed because it means they only need to do a single application of product rather than separately applying herbicide and fertilizer. They see it as a way to do twice the work in half the time.

The weed killer in weed and feed is either pre-emergent or post-emergent.

  • Pre-emergent herbicides prevent weed seeds from germinating, so they need to be applied very early in the year, before the weeds begin to sprout.
  • Post-emergent herbicides work on weeds that are already growing, so they should be applied later in the year, usually in the summer. Broadleaf weed killers might even be more effective in the fall.
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Tips for using weed and feed

If you still think the benefits of a two-for-one application outweighs the negative aspects of weed and feed, the Weed Science Society of America offers some tips to follow, so you get the best results with the least environmental damage:

  • Read the label before you purchase, so you know what you’re buying and how to apply it.
  • Identify the kinds of weeds growing in your yard and make sure the herbicide in your product targets those weeds. If you don’t know what the weeds are, contact your local Extension agent or check an online resource, such as those produced by the Extension Service.
  • Identify the kind of grass growing in your yard. A quick rule of thumb: cool-season grasses stay green all year while warm-season grasses go dormant and turn brown in winter. Cool-season grasses should be fertilized in the fall, and warm-season grasses should be fed in the late spring or early summer. Choose a weed-and-feed that works in that fertilization period.
  • Apply product with post-emergent herbicides early in the morning when the dew is on the grass, or water the lawn before applying. The granules will stick to the wet blades of grass and release the herbicide better than with dry blades.
  • Follow the directions that come with the product, including using the recommended amount at the suggested time of year or growth stage for weeds. Applying too much weed and feed or putting it down at the wrong time of year is a waste of money and could damage your lawn.
  • Keep the product off other landscape plants. If any gets on the sidewalk or driveway, use a blower or broom to sweep it back into the lawn.
  • Clean your hands and shoes after applying the product, so you don’t unwittingly take the chemicals into your house.
  • Keep kids and pets out of the yard for a few days after you treat it. Studies show that lawn chemicals stay in the grass for at least 48 hours, and dogs who’ve been exposed to lawns treated with herbicides may have a higher risk of certain cancers.

Alternatives to weed and feed

The easiest alternative to applying weed and feed is to treat feeding and weed killing as two separate processes. Apply fertilizer at the time dictated by the kind of grass growing in your yard —fall for cool-season grasses, late spring or early summer for warm-season grasses.

Treat for weeds at an appropriate time. If you truly think you have weed seeds all over your yard waiting to sprout, apply a pre-emergent over the entire yard in late winter, before the seeds begin to germinate. If you’ve applied pre-emergent in previous years and have your weeds under control, putting pre-emergent over the entire yard may be overkill. In that case, it makes more sense to see if any weeds do come up and spot-treat them with an appropriate herbicide based on what’s growing in your yard.

A natural product called corn gluten meal, sometimes referred to by its initials, CGM, may offer some hope for an organic alternative to weed and feed. CGM is a byproduct that results from wet milling corn. An Iowa State University professor found that it reduces seed germination, and it has been patented for use as a natural pre-emergent agent. CGM is about 10% nitrogen, which is the main ingredient in most fertilizers, so it’s also a natural fertilizer.

But if a natural, organic weed and feed sounds too good to be true, it might be. There are several reasons why CGM hasn’t become the go-to weed and feed product:

  • CGM is very expensive.
  • It only works on certain kinds of weeds.
  • It typically requires multiple applications.
  • It must be applied at the right time to stop seed germination.

Skip weed killer

The most environmentally friendly way to avoid weed killer is to pull the weeds out of your yard by hand. Weeding is never a fun task, but if you hand-weed, you don’t have to worry about chemicals being tracked into your home or being washed off and polluting local waterways.

A variety of weeding tools are available to make the chore a little easier. These include long-handled, foot-operated tools that grip the weeds and allow you to dig up the roots without having to bend down.

The best defense against weeds is a thick, healthy lawn. Keeping your lawn adequately watered applying fertilizer when necessary, and taking steps such as aerating when necessary may be all your lawn needs to stand tall against a weed invasion.

 
Crabgrass weed growing up through the lawn in the summer.

DIY or hire?

If a healthy lawn is your ultimate goal, it might make sense to turn to a professional lawn service that understands what products your lawn needs and when to apply them. House Method recommends hiring a professional lawn care provider to handle tasks such as fertilizing, weed management, and soil amendments.

DIY

  • You might save money by taking on all these tasks yourself, but keeping track of the ins and outs of fertilizers and herbicides takes some know-how. Do you know when to water after applying weed and feed or which product is the best crabgrass preventer or the most powerful clover and dandelion control?

Hire

  • Trained specialists understand the best schedule to fertilize the specific grass growing in your lawn. They know how to safely handle powerful chemicals like herbicides, and they can recognize and treat the kinds of weeds found in your yard. A professional lawn service will also take care of aerating, soil amendments, and the other treatments needed to create healthy grass that will crowd out weeds.

TruGreen: Our top lawn care company

House Method recommends TruGreen as a lawn care provider. TruGreen sends professionally trained service technicians to care for your lawn, starting with a Healthy Lawn Analysis®✦ that will determine the health of your lawn. TruGreen will tailor a treatment plan that meets the needs of your lawn.

With more than four decades of experience, TruGreen services more homes in America than any other lawn service provider.* The company also guarantees you a healthy lawn, and technicians will come back between scheduled visits as needed to make sure you’re satisfied.

TruGreen offers three levels of service.

  • The TruHealthSM Lawn Plan is a great alternative to applying weed and feed because it focuses on correctly timed applications of fertilizer and weed control products. The plan also includes an application of lime, a soil amendment that improves the condition of your lawn.
  • The TruCompleteSM Lawn Plan includes fertilizing, weed control, and lime application, as well as aeration, which reduces soil compaction and improves the health of grass. This service plan, the most popular among customers, includes all the treatments needed for a healthy lawn.
  • The TruSignatureSM Lawn Plan includes all the treatments for a healthy lawn and extends care to the trees and shrubs in your landscape. In addition to lawn-care visits, technicians will target the insects and diseases that can damage landscaping plants. This level is a great choice if you see your yard as an outdoor room for family fun and entertaining.

Not only does TruGreen tailor applications to the exact needs to your yard, but they are known for exceptional customer service. The company has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and has been accredited since 2012.

Read more: Our reviews for TruGreen’s lawn care and pest control services

To receive a free price quote from TruGreen, call 888.535.3193 or provide your zip code online.

FAQ: Weed and feed

What is weedgrip technology?

Scotts® Turf Builder® Weed & Feed 3 advertises Weedgrip Technology as a more powerful formulation to combat dandelions and clover. The company says the formula is two-times more powerful than its previous formula.

Should I water after applying weed and feed?

Granular weed and feed products should be spread on a wet lawn to help the granules stick to the weeds. Don’t water your lawn for at least 24 hours after applying the product.

Can I use weed and feed on a newly seeded lawn?

Scotts, which makes a variety of lawn care products like Turf Builder and weed and feed, recommends waiting until your new lawn has been mowed at least four times before you put any kind of weed control or crabgrass preventer down. The company recommends using Scotts® Turf Builder® Starter® Food for New Grass Plus Weed Preventer to prevent crabgrass when you’re growing a new lawn, but it can only be used on some cool-season grasses and not on any warm-season grasses.

Is weed and feed spray available?

Scotts and other manufacturers do make liquid weed and feed formulations that you spray on your lawn.

Can weed and feed be used in hot weather?

The weed control products in weed and feed are sensitive to temperatures. Scotts advises against using weed and feed products when the outside temperature is 85°F or higher.

green short thick Bermuda grass lawn background

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*America’s #1 lawn care company based on U.S. market share of professional lawn care companies. 2017 NorthStar Partners U.S. Share Tracker. ✦Purchase of full lawn plan required for Healthy Lawn Analysis, which is performed at the first visit. ◆Guarantee applies to full plan customers only.

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